26dems Homepage
Tech Advisory: This web page is best viewed in Firefox, Safari, or Internet Explorer version 7 and newer. You may have to upgrade Adobe Flashplayer if you experience problems. Report any problem to the webmaster.

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Don't Nuke the Climate! Sign NIRS Petition


Capitol Switchboard: 202-224-3121.

"We do not support construction of new nuclear reactors as a means of addressing the climate crisis. Available renewable energy and energy efficiency technologies are faster, cheaper, safer and cleaner strategies for reducing greenhouse emissions than nuclear power."

10,503 signers. Add your name!
492 U.S. org. signers so far
164 intl. org. signers so far.
Click on the image to sign.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Green News Report from Brad and Desi: Swine Flu Monitoring, A Tribute to John Gideon, Daily Voting News & More

For Daily Green News Check out

Friends of the Earth: Caution on Nuclear Energy; Health Peril, Unsustainable Costs

The Truth About Nuclear Energy: Health Risks and Economic Hazards
by Sandra Spangler

No new nuclear power plants have been constructed in the last 30 years since the nuclear
accident at Three-Mile Island. The facts about Three-Mile Island have been buried by the media until now.

Facing South online magazine published the report Investigation: Revelations about Three Mile Island disaster raise doubts over nuclear plant safety. The article features the recollections of Randall Thompson, who was hired as a health physics technician to go inside the Three Mile Island plant to evaluate the fallout dangers of the nation’s single worst nuclear disaster, monitored radiation release for 28 days. The truth about the meltdown was disclosed to the public for the first time in Facing South. The nuclear power industry wants to build a series of reactors in the American southland.

“The costs of nuclear power, coupled with its irresolvable safety and radioactive waste problems, killed the first generation of reactors, and are going to end this second generation as well. But it would be tragedy if the U.S. wasted any money on new reactors, when resources are so desperately needed to implement the safer, cheaper, faster, and sustainable energy sources needed to address the climate crisis,”

An emerging theme from the accounts of Thompson and other whistleblowers, government sponsored studies and testimony from victims and experts suggests that the accident caused radiation releases “hundreds if not thousands higher than the government and industry have acknowledged,” also that the incidence of cancer is high within a 10 mile radius of the power plant, and that victims did file suit, but the federal courts quashed the case.

But now, the nuclear industry has ramped up a lobbying and PR campaign to persuade Congress and the public that nuclear energy has a proven safety record and is the solution to global warming. Nuclear power plants do not release carbon dioxide, but critics claim that the process of construction and maintenance of power plants pump up carbon dioxide so as to nullify any positive gain.

Emerging questions about safe storage of nuclear waste led the Obama administration to put a hold on building a nuclear waste storage facility at Yucca Mountain in Nevada. See Good Riddance, Yucca Mountain. Yet Energy Secretary Stephen Chu, Nobel prize-winning physics professor, says that nuclear power plants will be part of the Obama alternative energy program to cut down on dependence on foreign oil.

The nuclear industry has successfully promoted nuclear power since President Eisenhower introduced the “Atoms for Peace” program. The industry has relied on government subsidies because nuclear power plants are so expensive to build, operate and maintain.

Three Mile Island should have been a warning to the nuclear industry to discontinue the proliferation of nuclear reactors. Yet the industry is seeking a nuclear renaissance. The powerful nuclear lobby tried to sneak nuclear energy into President Obama's stimulus package. But Friends of the Earth successfully lobbied initially to keep a 50 billion dollar subsidy from the stimulus package calling it a “nuclear pork” bailout. When the nuclear energy lobby failed on its first attempt,in early April without debate, nuclear energy lobbyists slipped in an extra $50 billion for an Energy Department program into the Senate’s budget blueprint to boost the department’s low-carbon energy loan construction guarantee program over 5 years.

The planned for nuclear “renaissance” is already running aground because of escalating costs. That may be one reason the nuclear industry is so intent on targeting Congress for more bailout money.

Two of the projects filed by 17 companies to build 26 reactors have failed, with the recent collapse of the AmerenEU project to build a reactor at Fulton, MO. The company discovered that the law didn’t allow them to bill customers for financing costs before the plant was finished.

Last year Warren Buffet, a major owner of the MidAmerican Nuclear Energy Company cancelled the Payette County Idaho project. The Nuclear Information Resource Service (NIRS) in a press release asked” if Warren Buffett cannot figure out how to make money from a new nuclear reactor, who can?”

NIRS Executive Director Michael Mariotte observed:
"This cancellation is the first of the new nuclear era,” said Michael Mariotte, executive director of Nuclear Information and Resource Service, “but it won’t be the last. Even before any new nuclear construction has begun in the U.S., cost estimates have skyrocketed and are now 300-400% higher than the industry was saying just two or three years ago."

“The extraordinary costs of nuclear power, coupled with its irresolvable safety and radioactive waste problems, killed the first generation of reactors, and are going to end this second generation as well. But it would be tragedy if the U.S. wasted any money on new reactors, when resources are so desperately needed to implement the safer, cheaper, faster, and sustainable energy sources needed to address the climate crisis,” Mariotte added.
Harvey Wasserman's article "Who Will Pay for America's Chernobyl" gives the true picture of what it would mean for America's economy if a nuclear accident on the scale of Chernobyl comes from one of the 40-year-old "rickety" atomic reactors operating in the United States. 23 years ago, the fallout from Chernobyl caused an estimated 300,000 deaths. Wasserman says that a meltdown like Chernobyl in the United States could "dwarf" that number. No private insurance company will write liability policies on nuclear reactors. There is no rainy-day fund or contingency plan for such a disaster. The federal government, the taxpayer-- would have to bear the burden. Wasserman concludes
"Our money and our lives are being wagered in a game that the house -- OUR house -- simply cannot win."
It's time to weigh the true costs and risks of nuclear power. That was the conclusion by a commission of state and federal nuclear regulators in a January 2007 report Why a Future for the Nuclear Industry Is Risky. After reviewing the cost/benefit ratio of nuclear energy the report concluded:
"The genesis of nuclear power was the “Atoms for Peace
Program” which was intended to make the public
more comfortable with the horrifying destruction of the
nuclear bomb. Originally, the promise was that the
technology would provide energy that would be “too cheap
to meter.”

"Nuclear power may still be more expensive and offset much fewer green-
house gas emissions than a portfolio of renewable and energy efficiency options."
Instead of investing in risky reactors that require massive taxpayer subsidies to construct, maintain, operate, and insure, that increase the carbon footprint, we should put our money toward developing safer alternative renewable sources of energy like solar and wind power that don't threaten our national security.

Monday, April 27, 2009

Bill Risner: Full transparency is the answer in achieving solid results – and public trust


"Our primary concern by far, however, is future elections." Bill Risner, Pima County Democratic Party Attorney

"Establishing election procedures that are secure, accurate and transparent is fundamental to maintaining public confidence in our democratic process." Read OpEd in the Tucson Citizen by Terry Goddard, Arizona Attorney General.

April 26, 2009, 7:53 p.m.
The Pima County Democratic Party is in unanimous agreement that the accurate counting of our votes is fundamental, critical and non-negotiable.

Some 1,500 of our volunteers work at each election to ensure the honesty of those elections.

The recent RTA ballot count by the Attorney General's Office was a byproduct of that effort but by no means a central focus. The central problem is that we use a computer system that makes cheating easy and detection difficult.

The RTA was endorsed by the Democratic Party. Our concerns had nothing to do with the transportation plan. It had everything to do with the sworn affidavit in which the computer operator confessed to rigging the election on the instruction of his county bosses.

That reported confession, combined with our analysis of the database revealing multiple anomalies consistent with such rigging, required an investigation, in our view, to settle a supremely important question.

Local newspapers and the Republican and Libertarian parties joined in our request for a serious investigation.

Since the ballots had been in the custody of Pima County officials for the past 2 1/2 years, it was necessary to resolve whether those ballots were the original ones.

Pima County owns a ballot printing machine, and the "GEMS" election software still contains all the printing instructions for that election.

The original ballots were printed on an offset press by the Runbeck Co., and Pima County's ballot printing machine uses a laser printer. We asked the attorney general to conduct a forensic examination or to allow us to look at the ballots with a microscope to confirm they were all offset-printed. The attorney general refused both requests.

We noted that the simple non-destructive examination of sample ballots would serve our mutual goal of public confidence. Despite the presence of the microscope during the 1 1/2 weeks that the ballots were being counted, the attorney general never permitted the examination of any ballots.

We regret that he chose not to resolve that obvious issue, since it was both important and easy to resolve.

Our primary concern by far, however, is future elections. The value of examining past election practices is to ensure that corrections and safeguards are in place for future elections. The entire election process is dependent on doing it right in the first place.

The common problem shared by all citizens in Pima County is that it is easy to cheat using our computer system and very difficult to do anything about it.

The "easy-to-cheat" assertion is agreed upon by all knowledgeable observers. Interestingly, those who know the most about computers are the least comfortable with them counting our votes using secret software instructions. Some sample quotes explain the problem:

• "Because it can be easily manipulated, the bottom line in this whole thing is we're only going to catch the stupid people, all right, because one could also alter the audit logs. One could do anything." - Chris Straub, chief civil deputy for the Pima County Attorney's Office.

• "During testing, it was discovered that the GEMS software exhibits fundamental security flaws that make definitive validation of data impossible due to the ease of data and log manipulation." - iBeta report to the Arizona attorney general.

• "The security mechanisms that are there are in general hopelessly inadequate to prevent manipulation of ballot records or vote totals by anyone with even a very short period of access to the system." - David Jefferson, Ph.D.

• "This is no secret. These issues have been known by not only our office but election offices all over the country." - Arizona Election Director Joseph Kanefield.

The "easy-to-cheat" problem must be combined with the impossibility to challenge any election.

State law requires that an election challenge be filed within five days of the approval of the canvass, with specific details as to why the outcome would have been different.

But the paper ballots cannot be examined. The electronic database cannot be examined within that narrow time frame and can be easily altered in any event.

Finally, the courts have no jurisdiction after the five-day period. Therefore, it is impossible to challenge any crooked election. We know it is impossible, and so do the election computer operators.

The answer is to use a graphic commercial scanner to scan all ballots after they are counted and to make the totality of the ballots publicly available on the Internet or other electronic means. Those ballots can then be counted by any person, candidate or political party using open-source free software.

Bill Risner is a personal injury specialist trial attorney who has represented the Pima County Democratic Party in election matters.

Editorial Comment by 26Dems : Attorney General Goddard credited the hard work of the election integrity advocates and the Pima County Democratic Party in bringing to light the flawed Diebold election system and for their part in instituting reforms within Pima County government that significantly improved security. For his strong support toward achieving transparency, Goddard clearly indicated that public oversight of elections is here to stay.

On the other hand County Manager Chuck Huckelberry in his own Tucson Citizen OpED by contrast primarily stresses unfair scrutiny of the Pima County Election Department in his statement below.

"This remarkable accuracy is a testament to the integrity and diligence of Elections Director Brad Nelson and Computer Specialist Bryan Crane, as well as the elections staff. It was disturbing to see the character of these conscientious county employees falsely maligned. The results of the attorney general's investigation showed beyond any doubt the allegations that anyone tampered with election results were completely false."

Huckelberry credits Pima County with improving security, but gives no acknowledgement to the incredible struggle the Pima County Democratic Party undertook to institute security reforms or the massive effort the County pursued to keep the election system non-transparent evidenced by its intractable resistance to turning over public documents.

It is astonishing that Mr. Huckelberry believes that we should put our trust in election results solely because he places faith in the integrity of his employees, and in Diebold, despite the fact that we recently learned that Diebold/Premier software has a built in DELETE button that wipes out audit logs.

Huckelberry celebrates the "win-win" for the county, but does not acknowledge, as the Attorney General did, that the RTA investigation was warranted given the many suspicious anomalies that were badges of fraud or that any concerns with Mr. Nelson's administration remain.

Sunday, April 26, 2009

The Siegelman Case: NY Times Editorial

April 25, 2009
The Siegelman Case

(Watch Former Arizona Attorney General Grant Woods on CBS 60 minutes.)

Attorney General Eric Holder’s recent decision to drop all of the charges against Ted Stevens, the former Republican senator from Alaska, because of prosecutorial misconduct raises an important question: What about Don Siegelman? A bipartisan group of 75 former state attorneys general has written to Mr. Holder asking him to take a fresh look at the former Alabama governor’s case. He should do so right away.

Mr. Siegelman was convicted in 2006 on dubious corruption charges. He spent nine months in prison before being released on appeal, and he faces years more behind bars. He has long insisted that the case against him was politically motivated and that prosecutors engaged in an array of professional and ethical violations.

Many aspects of the case require further scrutiny. United States Attorney Leura Canary is the wife of a prominent Republican political operative who was a strong opponent of Mr. Siegelman. Her office prosecuted Mr. Siegelman. Ms. Canary said that she recused herself from the prosecution, but questions have been raised about whether she actually did.

Mr. Siegelman’s supporters have long argued that he was targeted by the Justice Department because he was Alabama’s leading Democratic politician and stood a good chance of once again being elected governor. A Republican lawyer in Alabama, Jill Simpson, has said that she heard Ms. Canary’s husband, William Canary, say that he had discussed the prosecution with Karl Rove, the senior White House political adviser.

In the case of Mr. Stevens, who was convicted of felony charges for failing to disclose gifts and services, Mr. Holder was so troubled by the way the prosecution was carried out that he decided to drop the case entirely.

According to the Siegelman camp, at least three of the same officials who have been accused of prosecutorial misconduct in the Stevens case were involved in Mr. Siegelman’s prosecution. If true, this alone would seem to justify a thorough investigation of the case. And here is the rest of it.

Questions Linger About Siegelman Prosecution
NPR All Things Considered, December 13, 2008

Former Arizona Republican Attorney General Grant Woods tells NPR that Don Siegelman's case has all the earmarks of a "political prosecution."
Woods is leading the effort to investigate prosecutorial misconduct in the case of Gov. Siegelman. Woods' name appears among the first four of 75 names on the letter sent to Atty. Gen. Holder.

Saturday, April 25, 2009

Book Review by Eve Pell: Cruel and Unusual

Eve Pell on America’s Culture of Punishment
Posted on Apr 24, 2009

By Eve Pell

When I was involved in prison reform in the early 1970s, my colleagues and I were shocked that our state, California, held so many prisoners, 22,000. Now, 35 years later, California’s prison population has ballooned to 165,000. Since 1973, the U.S. imprisonment rate has multiplied more than five times; we hold the dubious distinction of being the most imprisoning nation in the world.

Why does our nation, with 5 percent of the world’s people, have 25 percent of its prisoners, about 2 million? Why do we keep at least 25,000, maybe double that, in long-term isolation, a situation known to cause insanity, when other nations have more effective and humane methods of managing violence? Why do we inflict intense physical pain, sometimes to the point of death, with tasers, stun belts and restraint chairs at a time when violent crime is not on the increase?

Anne-Marie Cusac
, an award-winning reporter (and published poet) with years of covering criminal justice issues, tackles these questions in her book “Cruel and Unusual: The Culture of Punishment in America.” In just-the-facts, dispassionate style, she traces the methods our society has used to discipline offenders and nonconformists, from 17th century floggings and stocks in the public square to 21st century super-maxes designed to deprive inmates of human contact. She chronicles the motivations driving such vengeful practices, from Protestant Christian beliefs in the devil and the sinful nature of man to public fear of crime whipped up by television cop shows and exploited by politicians.

Cusac, who teaches communications at Roosevelt University in Chicago, also traces the history of American attitudes toward punishment from colonial days and the Rev. Jonathan Edwards in 1740 to modern-day Christian conservatives and the tortures at Abu Ghraib. (“All are by nature the children of wrath and heirs of hell … ,” preached Edwards, insisting that the wills of young “vipers” must be beaten down and broken.) Using a wide lens, she examines the intentional infliction of pain as a means to discipline and reform those who are deemed in need of chastisement, from lashings with cat-o’-nine-tails and boring holes in tongues with a hot iron, as was done in the Massachusetts colony, to hooding and beating inmates, or shackling them to restraint poles in freezing cold or searing heat, as happened recently in some U. S. prisons. The same philosophy extends to families: I was astonished to find that one can order spanking rods—a Speak Softly Spanking Stick, for instance—on the Internet, for administering biblically sanctioned punishment to one’s child.

Cusac links changes in attitudes toward punishment to changes in American culture. After the American Revolution, for example, the former colonists mitigated the harsh penalties imposed under monarchical rule, finding lesser punishments more in line with their new democracy. She describes the evolution of reformist and anti-reformist movements as they swept across the nation and conflicted with one another.
Click on this link: Truthdig for the rest of the story.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Liz Cheney's Aggressive Defense of her Father's Torture Policy Doesn't Square with the Facts

Watch Liz Cheney's interview with Norah O'Donnell, MSNBC, then read and ponder this article from Blog for Arizona that cites the New York Times article by FBI agent Ali Soufan, at the center of the interrogation of Abu Zubaydah, who claims that Al Qaida plots were uncovered by traditional interrogation, not by torture. Soufan further reveals that contractors, not CIA agents requested the use of harsh techniques.

FBI Interrogator: torture did not produce actionable intelligence

Posted by AzBlueMeanie:

In a remarkable opinion in the New York Times today, My Tortured Decision, FBI supervisory special agent Ali Soufan addresses the claim that torture produced actionable intelligence. According to him, traditional interrogation methods proved far more effective.

One of the most striking parts of the memos is the false premises on which they are based. The first, dated August 2002, grants authorization to use harsh interrogation techniques on a high-ranking terrorist, Abu Zubaydah, on the grounds that previous methods hadn’t been working. The next three memos cite the successes of those methods as a justification for their continued use.

It is inaccurate, however, to say that Abu Zubaydah had been uncooperative. Along with another F.B.I. agent, and with several C.I.A. officers present, I questioned him from March to June 2002, before the harsh techniques were introduced later in August. Under traditional interrogation methods, he provided us with important actionable intelligence.

We discovered, for example, that Khalid Shaikh Mohammed was the mastermind of the 9/11 attacks. Abu Zubaydah also told us about Jose Padilla, the so-called dirty bomber. This experience fit what I had found throughout my counterterrorism career: traditional interrogation techniques are successful in identifying operatives, uncovering plots and saving lives.

There was no actionable intelligence gained from using enhanced interrogation techniques on Abu Zubaydah that wasn’t, or couldn’t have been, gained from regular tactics. In addition, I saw that using these alternative methods on other terrorists backfired on more than a few occasions — all of which are still classified. The short sightedness behind the use of these techniques ignored the unreliability of the methods, the nature of the threat, the mentality and modus operandi of the terrorists, and due process.

Defenders of these techniques have claimed that they got Abu Zubaydah to give up information leading to the capture of Ramzi bin al-Shibh, a top aide to Khalid Shaikh Mohammed, and Mr. Padilla. This is false. The information that led to Mr. Shibh’s capture came primarily from a different terrorist operative who was interviewed using traditional methods. As for Mr. Padilla, the dates just don’t add up: the harsh techniques were approved in the memo of August 2002, Mr. Padilla had been arrested that May.

For the rest of the story go to BlogforArizona.

Uncovered: Bruce Ash Is Covert GOP Operative Behind Hit campaign Against Marana Town Council Candidate Kelle Maslyn

Mystery Solved:

The man behind the decidedly partisan unfair hit campaign sponsored by the shadowy group "People for an Independent Marana" that did not lawfully register with the town of Marana at the time the mailers were sent to town residents is none other than a high-ranking Republican national committeeman who does not even live in Marana.

Kelle Maslyn in her first bid for public office has impressive credentials and enjoys strong bipartisan support. Maslyn is well-qualified for the post as the former Executive Director of the Marana Chamber of Commerce and Chair of Marana's Business and Economic Development Commission. Visit Kelle's website for information about her campaign to promote economic diversity for Marana and other issues, endorsements, events, and to volunteer or donate.

Irony alert: the guy behind the Marana hit piece

Reposted from Blog for Arizona

by David Safier

Tedski has a follow up on the hit piece sent out last Friday against Kelle Maslyn, who is one of four candidates running for two seats on the Marana Town Council. The head of People for an Independent Marana, the group that created the flier, is Bruce Ash.

The mailer complained about outside interests trying to get Maslyn elected. Turns out Bruce Ash is a Tucson resident. And far from being "independent," Ash is the national committeeman for the Arizona Republican Party.

Ash qualifies as "People" (or at least, "Person"), but "Independent" and "Marana" are stretches. I guess one out of three ain't bad. Oh wait, yes it is.

GOP Stymies Vote on Sebelius; Kyl Invokes Fear of Health Care Rationing

AZ Senator Kyl uses Sebelius confirmation as the platform to launch fight against Obama's Health Care Reform. Raises fears that comparative research would lead to denial of care.

Washington Post
Updated 2:05 p.m.
By Ceci Connolly

President Obama will have to wait a bit longer to round out his Cabinet. Senate Republicans refused today to allow a confirmation vote on his health secretary nominee Gov. Kathleen Sebelius (D-Kan.). She is the last Cabinet member awaiting Senate approval.

At the start of the session today, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) proposed taking a vote after five hours of debate. But Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) objected, arguing that lawmakers needed more time to consider her "fairly contentious" selection.

A handful of Republicans have complained about Sebelius' support for abortion rights and her failure to report the full extent of campaign contributions she received from a physician who performs abortions.

Sen. Jon Kyl (R-Ariz.) opposes Sebelius because of the Obama administration's support for research on the comparative effectiveness of disease treatments. He said he fears the evidence-based approach, coupled with information on price, could lead to rationing of care.

In the Senate Finance Committee Tuesday, eight of 10 GOP members opposed her nomination. Two Republicans, Sens. Pat Roberts of Kansas and Olympia Snowe of Maine, voted to confirm her.

During her long stint in Kansas politics, Sebelius has been known as a moderate with strong relations across the aisle. She chose a running mate two years ago who had been a Republican Party leader.

Reid spokesman Jim Manley said today that, if necessary, the Democratic leader intends to pursue the procedural maneuvers needed to overcome a Republican filibuster. That would likely push a confirmation vote into next week.

"We're confident there will be the 60 votes needed to confirm her," Manley said.

This afternoon, McConnell's office clarified in a statement that the nomination is "not stymied, she's just not getting confirmed today" and said that concerns about a filibuster are premature.

Posted at 11:15 AM ET on Apr 23, 2009 | Category: Cabinet

Rethink Afghanistan: Winter Soldiers Speak Then and Now

Rick Reyes was born May 3rd, 1980. He grew up in the Boyle Heights area of East Los Angeles. Reyes joined the Marine Corps in 2000. He signed up to be an Infantry Rifle Man in the Marine Corps while serving in Operation Enduring Freedom in Afghanistan in 2001 and Operation Iraqi Freedom in 2003. He returned from duty early 2004. Upon his return Reyes started his own independent mortgage company. Father of 3 year old Stephanie, today he resides in Los Angeles. Rick Reyes is a member of Iraq Veterans against the War (IVAW). Through Facebook, Rick Reyes searched and found Brave New Foundation’s documentary filmmaker Brave New Films.

Sign the Petition.

Video of Attorney General RTA Press Conference

Update from the Bradblog:

"Video of the complete Goddard presser follows below, courtesy of J.T. Waldron, producer of the upcoming Fatally Flawed documentary about the years-long struggle for accountability and transparency in Pima County. The Election Defense Alliance is a major sponsor of the film that will be released on DVD soon.

The question about The BRAD BLOG's coverage of the AG Press Secretary Anne Hilby's direct quote that "Yes, we're examining all of the evidence seized, including the poll tapes," and her response claiming it to be a "misstatement on [her] part", comes at around 16:30 on the video. Goddard adds after that: "I don't see how they would be relevant to a hand-count"." Video is 37 minutes.

Note: Attorney General Goddard explained that the court order from an unknown Maricopa County judge was narrowly construed to authorize only the counting of the ballots, excluding a forensic examination of a random sample of the ballots to check for ballot substitution or any examination of the poll tapes.

The Pima County Democratic Party legal case requesting the yellow sheets and poll tapes is still pending. Upon obtaining the poll tapes, a comparison of the poll tape tallies can be made to the official precinct election results. Editorial Comment by 26Dems

Listen to the KJLL The Jolt John C. Scott Show Interview with Terry Goddard 4/21/09

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Green Jobs for a Green Future


Van Jones from the White House Council of Environmental Quality visits a local work site that gives us a glimpse of the clean energy economy that's on the way. Green roofing is just one of the countless green job opportunities that will emerge from President Obama's comprehensive energy policy.

Find out what thee U.S. non-profit Green Building Council is doing to make green building available to everyone within a generation.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009


May 2006 RTA election results tabulated by Pima County elections Division compared with the Maricopa County Elections Division hang(d) recount

Question 1

"Do you approve of the regional transportation plan for Pima County?"

Pima County election canvass:

Yes - 71,948 - about 60.05 percent

No: 47,870 - about 39.95 percent

Maricopa County Elections Division hand recount:

Yes - 71,626 - about 60.06 percent

No - 47,636 - about 39.94 percent

Difference: 556 votes

Question 2:

"Do you favor the levy of a transaction privilege tax for regional transportation purposes in Pima County?"

Pima County election canvass:

Yes - 68,773 - about 57.64 percent

No - 50,551 - about 42.36 percent

Maricopa County Elections Division hand recount:

Yes - 68,420 - about 57.63 percent

No - 50,306 - about 42.37 percent

Difference: 598 votes

April 21, 2009, 5:24 p.m.
Tucson Citizen
Arizona Attorney General Terry Goddard said Tuesday that a hand recount of the 2006 Regional Transportation Authority election showed no evidence of criminal tampering with the results.

Goddard also said the recounted ballots matched almost exactly the results tabulated by Pima County Elections Division staffers after the election.

"The bottom line of what we've shown here is that there was no flip," Goddard said.

Goddard earlier this year ordered a hand count of ballots from the RTA election, in which county voters approved two ballot items - creation of a Regional Transportation Authority and a half cent sales tax to help fund projects to be overseen by the agency.

Voters approved a 20-year $2.1 billion regional transportation plan and an accompanying half-cent sales tax increase by wide margins, the upheld election results show.

Four previous major transportation initiatives to be funded by bonds or sale taxes had been strongly rejected by voters over the previous 15 years.

Goddard was trying to determine if the vote was rigged by someone through tampering with electronic vote devices or with ballot tabulating procedures following the election.

"It appeared there was reasonable suspicion that a crime had been committed" Goddard said of claims by critics of computerized vote systems that tampering did indeed take place.

Those included illegal printing of early ballot returns five days before the election, and the presence of a crop card, which is a device that can be used to alter results in the elections division offices.

Although Goddard said the criminal investigation is closed, he would not comment on whether a grand jury has looked or is looking into the conduct of the election.

Goddard ordered the hand recount to be undertaken by the Maricopa County Elections Division earlier this month to find out.

His office had probed the Pima County Elections Division and its use of a Diebold-GEMS electronic vote systems in 2007, which have been widely criticized for being vulnerable to manipulation in several ways.

That probe found serious security flaws in the system and elections division, but no criminal actions.

"I think it proves we've been vindicated," County Administrator Chuck Huckelberry, said Tuesday.

"It was very disturbing that the staff had to suffer those unwarranted insults and charges," Huckelberry added.

The case started in 2007 when the Pima County Democratic Party sought access to the county's electronic vote databases from previous elections.

Party officials said they wanted to be able to check the reliability of electronic vote systems after widespread complaints from across the country that such systems were hackable and results could be manipulated.

Pima County Superior Court Judge Michael Miller ruled in December 2007 that the county must surrender some past election databases - the first such court order to a government to turn over electronic vote records.

The order omitted the RTA databases, which were later released to the Democrats early last year by the Pima County Board of Supervisors.

Over 120,000 ballots were recounted by Maricopa County officials and reaffirmed the original tally.

RTA executive director Gary L. Hayes said after Goddard's press conference that agency staffers worked straight through the court case and AG's investigation, assuming that the vote totals would be upheld.

"Of course there is uncertainty," Hayes said. "But from day one we've tried to stay the course on how the voters approved it."

The Associated Press contributed to this report

UPDATE: Senate Panel Clears Sebelius 11-5; Senator Kyl votes "NO"

The Hill Reports that two Republicans joined Democrats to approve the Sibelius nomination for HH Secretary five-months into the Obama presidency. AZ Sen. Jon Kyl votes "NO"

Senate panel backs Sebelius' HHS nod
By Jeffrey Young
Posted: 04/21/09 11:18 AM [ET]

In a nearly party-line vote, the Senate Finance Committee voted Tuesday to recommend the confirmation of Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary-designate Kathleen Sebelius.

Two committee Republicans voted with the Democrats: Sens. Olympia Snowe of Maine and Pat Roberts of Kansas, where Sebelius is the Democratic governor. The final tally was 11-5 (15-8 including proxy votes).

If the Senate follows suit and swiftly votes to confirm Sebelius, President Obama would finally have a complete Cabinet nearly five months into his presidency.

The absence of an HHS secretary has been particularly striking because health reform has emerged as one of the Obama administration's top priorities in the early months of 2009.
“I congratulate Gov. Sebelius and will push for immediate action by the full Senate so that she can finally roll up her sleeves and get down to helping out on this critical work of reforming the healthcare system," Finance Committee Chairman Max Baucus (D-Mont.) said in a statement.

But Senate Minority Whip Jon Kyl (R-Ariz.) spoke up before the committee vote to declare his opposition, when he raised questions about Sebelius's ties to Kansas abortion doctor George Tiller, who contributed to her campaigns for state office. Sebelius generated intense opposition from anti-abortion-rights activists for her record on the issue in Kansas.

Though the possibility remains that Sebelius's confirmation by the full Senate could be delayed by a "hold" from any GOP senator, her installation into Obama's Cabinet seems assured.

All 56 Senate Democrats and the two independents who caucus with them are all but certain to vote to confirm. Moreover, in addition to Snowe, the two Republican senators from her home state, Roberts and Sam Brownback, endorsed Sebelius when Obama nominated her in March. Votes from just those three Republican senators would be enough to give her the support of 61 senators, one more than the threshold needed to overcome any attempt at a filibuster.

Sebelius's confirmation briefly appeared to be in jeopardy earlier this month when she revealed prior to her Finance Committee hearing that she had paid more than $7,000 in back taxes while being vetted for the Cabinet. She cited "unintentional errors" related to a home mortgage and charitable contributions.

A controversy about back taxes felled Obama's first nominee for HHS secretary, former Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle (D-S.D.). Daschle withdrew from consideration after disclosing that he had paid more than $140,000 in back taxes during the vetting process. Unpaid taxes have plagued a number of Obama's other nominees and appointees, including Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner.

Senator Kyl posted a press release on his website today that reveals how the Republicans are planning an Orwellian back-door attack on the Obama health plan. Kyl based his officially recorded "No" vote on the Sebelius nomination on abortion rights. Then he issued the press release to say that the real reason he voted no was because Sebelius supported President Obama's health care plan that includes both public and private insurance.

Kyl hints that a government plan instead of widening options will control and restrict options. Yet he ignores that popular support for a government option is soundly based on the for profit motive to deny care. Just whose rights is Kyl upholding, profits or people?

He comes right out and says that "'Allocation of health resources'" is a euphemism for denying care based on cost. Yet, Governor Sebelius did not agree to pull this project."

Kyl now says basing his objection to the nomination of Gov. Sebelius on the basis of her support for "cost effectiveness research" Editorial comment by 26Dems

Kyl wrote an Op-Ed for the National Ledger
National Ledger - Health Care Reform: A Patient Firewall

By U.S. Senator Jon Kyl – 4.20.09

During his campaign and in his first months in office, the President has emphasized the importance of health-care reform. I agree that Americans should have access to quality, affordable health care; but, as is so often the case, the question not whether, but how.

Health Care Reform: A Patient Firewall

Any health-care reform must protect the doctor-patient relationship and ensure access to the highest quality medical care. The budget recently approved by the Senate and the previously-passed economic stimulus bill, however, lay the foundation for health-care reform in which the government, not physicians and patients, would set the rules and make health-care decisions.

The stalking horse for this dangerous shift in policy is what is known as “comparative effectiveness research.” If structured appropriately, this research can provide patients and doctors with useful information about the latest in effective treatments so that they may make informed health-care decisions. For example, a study might compare a drug versus a surgery and determine that the drug is just as effective or better at improving patients’ quality of life. But, without the appropriate safeguards, the government may misuse comparative effectiveness research as a tool to ration or deny care. And since private insurers tend to follow the federal government’s lead, this has significant implications for all patients.

The government’s decision to use this research to determine whether some treatments or drugs are too costly is how many of the socialized health-care systems delay or deny care. The British health care system spells it out clearly on its website: “The enormous costs involved mean that choices have to be made. It makes sense to focus on treatments that improve the quality and/or length of someone’s life, and, at the same time, are an effective use of NHS [the British national health-care system] resources.”

Moreover, “Each drug is considered on a case-by-case basis. Generally, however, if a treatment costs more than £20,000 to £30,000 per quality adjusted life year, then it would not be considered cost effective.”

In other words, the government, not physicians and patients, determines whether you can receive care. The government weighs if your treatment is an “effective use” of its resources. And, the government puts a price tag on what an extra year of life is worth to you.

I think we can do better and we should stick to a basics principle that all Americans should be able to choose the doctor, hospital, and health plan of their choice. No Washington bureaucrat should interfere with that right, or substitute the government’s judgment for that of a physician.

During the Senate’s consideration of the budget, I introduced an amendment that would ensure that patients are put first and that the government will not use comparative effectiveness research to ration care. Unfortunately, my amendment was defeated, largely on party lines, but rest assured I will continue to work to see that the government does not hurt patients by delaying or denying care or stifling innovation.

U.S. Senator Jon Kyl is the Assistant Republican Leader and serves on the Senate Finance and Judiciary committees. Visit his website here.

Palin v. Sebelius? "Team Sarah" Organizes Against Obama Pick

by Sam Stein
Huffington Post
04/20/09 12:52 PM

An online community of female supporters of Gov. Sarah Palin is launching a last minute campaign to derail the candidacy of Kathleen Sebelius for the secretary post at the Department of Health and Human Services.

Team Sarah, which was founded to support and mobilize for the McCain-Palin ticket and claims tens-of-thousands of members, blasted out a petition on Monday morning urging members to "flood the phone lines" in opposition to Sebelius' candidacy.

Sebelius's nomination is set to come to a vote before the Senate Finance Committee this Tuesday, April 21. The nomination is expected to pass through the committee and ultimately the Senate, though on Friday the terrain got a bit rougher, when ranking Republican Sen. Charles Grassley criticized the Kansas Governor for understating the amount of money she raised from doctor who performs abortions -- likely the same revelation offending the Team Sarah members.

Progressive groups have been pushing for an expeditious confirmation of Sebelius for weeks, arguing that the administration is being disadvantaged by lacking a cabinet figure to tackle a subject of such key political and economy importance (health care).

Here, for instance, is the SEIU's petition:

Earlier this month, a Republican Senator put a mysterious hold on the confirmation of Gov. Kathleen Sebelius as Health and Human Services Secretary. It's hard to believe that while the clock ticks on fixing health care, the top leadership position in the government's health agency is left vacant. This is simply unacceptable.

Monday, April 20, 2009

GOP's Civil Liberties Hypocrisy

Homeland Security Assessment: Napolitano Brings Change!
Rethinks Who Are the Domestic Terrorists?

Consortium News
By Nat Parry
April 20, 2009

Just as Republicans have refashioned themselves as fiscal conservatives in the age of Obama, apparently forgetting that they allowed a budget surplus to be transformed into a record deficit while George W. Bush was President, they now seem to be taking up the cause of civil liberties – at least as far as right-wing groups are concerned.

What has piqued their interest is a recent Department of Homeland Security assessment, sent to all local, state and tribal law enforcement agencies, detailing the potential terrorist threat posed by right-wing extremists.

Significantly, the assessment concludes that “lone wolves and small terrorist cells embracing violent right-wing extremist ideology are the most dangerous domestic terrorism threat in the United States.”

By citing right-wing extremists as the most significant domestic security threat, the report marks a radical departure from the Bush administration, which placed greater emphasis on the supposed threat posed by “homegrown” Islamic extremists, and often targeted liberal and left-wing activist s for surveillance and harassment, under the vague umbrella of “counter-terrorism.”

Although the new DHS assessment does not contain any specific information on impending terrorist attacks, or single out any specific organizations, it generally warns that many current political and economic conditions parallel those of the 1990s, which saw a rise in right-wing extremism culminating in the Oklahoma City bombing that killed 168 people on April 19, 1995.

But because the report argues that some on the Right may be motivated to join extremist organizations, conservatives are complaining that the DHS has unfairly singled out citizens concerned about gun rights, taxes and immigration control.

Conservatives also claim to be outraged over speculation in the report that disgruntled Iraq and Afghanistan veterans could be recruited by right-wing extremist groups.

“To characterize men and women returning home after defending our country as potential terrorists is offensive and unacceptable,” said House Republican leader John Boehner of Ohio.

Others are more generally decrying the report as an unwarranted political attack on the conservative movement.

“The recent DHS report … has nothing to do with protecting our country from the current threat of terrorism,” wrote conservative commentator JR Dieckmann. “It has everything to do with gathering information on people and groups who oppose the Obama regime in Washington.”

Jim Clymer, chairman of the right-wing Constitution Party, called the report “an egregious case of political profiling,” adding: “It’s indeed a frightening reality when those who subscribe to a constitutionally based political view are characterized as potentially violent.”

Selective Outrage

To some, however, the conservative outrage over the DHS report may smack of hypocrisy. There were few complaints from the Right, it has been pointed out, when the DHS in January 2009 issued an assessment on the threat that left-wing extremists pose, particularly when it comes to committing cyber attacks.

And of course, there was no comparable outrage over political and religious profiling during the Bush years. The outrage may seem all the more selective considering that the Bush administration often went beyond mere “profiling” to active surveillance, harassment and even prosecutions of non-violent political organizations that opposed the Bush agenda.

Under Bush’s Justice Department, the FBI and other law enforcement agencies often seemed more interested in containing the dissent inspired by policies such as the Iraq War than they were in thwarting actual terrorist activities.

Following a move in 2002 by Attorney General John Ashcroft to loosen restrictions that had been placed on the FBI after the COINTELPRO political-spying scandal of the 1970s, the FBI soon began collecting information on and targeting all sorts of progressive organizations.

In 2003, the FBI sent a memorandum to local law enforcement agencies before planned demonstrations against the war in Iraq. The memo instructed local law enforcement agencies to be on the lookout for “possible indicators of protest activity and report any potentially illegal acts to the nearest FBI Joint Terrorism Task Force.”

Then, prior to the 2004 Democratic and Republican national conventions, the JTTF raided the homes of activists who were organizing demonstrations, while FBI agents in Missouri, Kansas and Colorado spied on and interrogated activists. [NYT, Aug. 16, 2004]

The FBI also began collecting thousands of pages of internal documents on civil rights and antiwar groups including the American Civil Liberties Union, Greenpeace and United for Peace and Justice.

Leslie Cagan, the national coordinator for UFPJ, said that she was particularly concerned that the FBI’s counterterrorism division was discussing the coalition’s operations.

“We always assumed the FBI was monitoring us, but to see the counterterrorism people looking at us like this is pretty jarring,” Cagan said.

Further revelations of the government improperly classifying antiwar groups as terrorist threats continued to surface.

In December 2005, for example, NBC News revealed the existence of a secret 400-page Pentagon document listing 1,500 “suspicious incidents” over a 10-month period, including dozens of antiwar demonstrations that were classified as a “threat.”

More recently, the state of Maryland notified dozens of nonviolent activists that they were wrongfully labeled as terrorists in the federal terrorism database. Among those notified were Ardeth Platte and Carol Gilbert, two nuns who have spent their lives protesting nuclear weapons and war through nonviolent acts of civil disobedience.

“To be labeled a terrorist is really very hard to hear and to accept when your whole life has been one of loving nonviolence,” Platte said. “Does civil dissent and civil unrest mean that people are going to be labeled as terrorists?” [For more on this, see Consortiumnews.com’s “Are You Palling Around With Terrorists?”]

Yet, with a few notable exceptions, Republicans in Congress largely remained silent every time a new abuse of power was revealed. In some cases, Republicans even seemed to endorse the targeting of Bush-era dissenters.

“The administration has not only the right, but the duty, in my opinion, to pursue Fifth Column movements,” Sen. Lindsay Graham, R-South Carolina, once told Attorney General Alberto Gonzales during a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing.

Who’s a Threat?

Beyond the seeming hypocrisy of the GOP’s selective outrage over political profiling and civil liberties, there is also the larger question of whether the DHS report accurately assesses the nation’s most pressing internal security concerns.

Underlining the Republican critiques of the report is their annoyance that the focus of the campaign against terrorism has shifted away from leftists and Muslims and towards constituencies that currently make up the base of the Republican Party.

After years of the U.S. government targeting groups and individuals that are out of step with what Republicans consider the “American mainstream,” suddenly, the Department of Homeland Security is highlighting individuals on the Right as potential threats.

Although Republicans may not welcome this new emphasis, there is ample reason to believe that right-wing extremists pose at least as great a threat to domestic security as Islamic extremists, and certainly a greater threat than antiwar and environmental activists on the Left.

While some left-wing organizations, such as the Weather Underground in the 1970s and the Earth Liberation Front in the 1990s, have undoubtedly carried out bombings and arson attacks, these acts have been carried out largely against empty buildings, including both government and corporate targets. Human casualties have been a rare and mostly unintended result.

Right-wing and white supremacist organizations, on the other hand, have consistently targeted human life, from the Southern lynchings and church bombings of the Ku Klux Klan to the abortion clinic bombings and right-wing militia violence of the 1990s.

And as the DHS report points out, there are many parallels between the current era and the 1990s.

Then, just as now, the country was experiencing an economic downturn, with factories being closed down and jobs being shipped overseas. There was a backlash against immigration policies and federal efforts at gun control, and some disgruntled Gulf War veterans, including Oklahoma City bomber Timothy McVeigh, were attracted to the right-wing militia movement.

A similar dynamic is taking place today. Not only is the country experiencing a severe economic crisis, but there are also the same concerns regarding gun control, immigration and other hot-button issues.

Recent attacks on a Unitarian Church and on three Pittsburgh police officers indicate that there is abundant reason to worry about a rise in right-wing violence that is motivated by perceived political grievances.

In the July 2008 shooting at the Unitarian Church in Knoxville, Tennessee, gunman Jim David Adkisson opened fire on people attending a youth performance, killing two and wounding seven. He later told police that he was motivated by “his belief that all liberals should be killed because they were ruining the country,” according to the sworn affidavit of a police officer who questioned the confessed killer.

The attack on the Pittsburgh police earlier this month also seemed to have a right-wing extremist motivation. The shooter, Richard Poplawski, had been stockpiling guns and ammunition, fearing that the Obama administration was poised to ban guns, and that the police would be unable to deal with the ensuing chaos brought about by the economic downturn. He was also upset about recently losing his job, according to friends.

History of Violence

There is also reason to believe that some returning military veterans are increasingly attracted to right-wing extremism. The DHS assessment cites a report issued by the FBI in 2008 – during the Bush administration – that some returning military veterans from the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan have joined extremist groups with violent tendencies.

“Although individuals with military backgrounds constitute a small percentage of white supremacist extremists,” the FBI concluded, “they frequently occupy leadership roles within extremist groups and their involvement has the potential to reinvigorate an extremist movement suffering from loss of leadership and in-fighting during the post-9/11 period.”

The FBI noted that the military training that veterans bring to the right-wing extremist movement may increase the ability of lone offenders to carry out violence from the movement’s fringes.

Also, as the DHS notes, there is evidence that right-wing extremists have already begun to infiltrate the armed forces, both for the training that the military provides, and to recruit other service members to their cause.

The DHS cites a Southern Poverty Law Center study, which documented in 2006 that “large numbers of potentially violent neo-Nazis, skinheads, and other white supremacists are now learning the art of warfare in the armed forces.”

Relying on interviews with Defense Department investigators, the SPLC determined that thousands of soldiers in the Army alone are involved in extremist activity.

"We’ve got Aryan Nations graffiti in Baghdad,” Defense Department detective Scott Barfield told the civil rights organization.

Neo-Nazis “stretch across all branches of service,” Barfield elaborated. “They are linking up across the branches once they’re inside, and they are hard-core.”

Although the references in the DHS report to military veterans have generated the fiercest criticism from Republicans, there is actually much evidence that some returning veterans have violent tendencies and may pose a threat to public safety.

While Gulf War veteran McVeigh is the most often cited example of a disgruntled veteran using his military experience to wage war against the United States, he is not the only example.

John Allen Muhammad, the so-called “Beltway Sniper” who terrorized the Washington, DC area for three weeks in the fall of 2002, was also a veteran of the Gulf War. He qualified as an “expert” with the M16, which is the highest rating the Army grants in three levels of marksmanship.

He was also attached to a West Coast army base famous for its sniper training program, which used the motto “One shot, one kill.”

Prior to his service in the military, Muhammad was considered friendly and non-violent. By the time he divorced his second wife in 1999, however, there were indications of increasingly violent tendencies. His spouse sought a court protection order against him and court records show that she twice accused him of domestic violence.

“I am afraid of John,” Mildred Green Muhammad wrote in a complaint on March 3, 2000. “He was a demolition expert in the military. He’s behaving very, very irrational. Whenever he does talk with me, he always says that he’s going to destroy my life and I hang up the phone.”

VA Cost-Cutting

While few would argue that the military is to blame for the murderous choices made by McVeigh and Muhammad, there does seem to be a well-established correlation between military service and violent tendencies, especially when vets don’t get the support they need upon returning home.

With increasing numbers of veterans experiencing post-traumatic stress disorder, there has been a sharp rise in the incidence of domestic violence, which has reached “historic frequency,” according to a new book by Helen Benedict called The Lonely Soldier.

Benedict notes that post-traumatic stress disorder rates appear to be higher among Iraq veterans than among those who have served in Afghanistan or even in Vietnam. “One of the symptoms of this disorder,” she notes, “is uncontrollable violence.”

“Domestic violence rates among veterans with posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) are higher than those of the general population,” further notes an October 2006 article in the Journal of Marital and Family Therapy.

And yet, even as the link between PTSD and domestic violence became increasingly clear, the cash-strapped Department of Veterans Affairs moved to cut benefits to veterans suffering from the disorder.

As the Iraq War lasted longer and required more troops than the Bush administration had anticipated, evidence emerged that the military was working to ensure that Iraq veterans not be diagnosed with PTSD, a condition that obligates the military to provide intensive long-term care, including the possibility of lifetime disability payments.

In June 2008, an e-mail surfaced written by Norma Perez, Ph.D., a VA psychologist who coordinates PTSD cases.

She wrote, “Given that we are having more and more compensation-seeking veterans, I'd like to suggest that you refrain from giving a diagnosis of PTSD straight out. Consider a diagnosis of adjustment disorder.”

So, instead of decrying the DHS report for “singling out” military veterans for terrorism-related concerns, perhaps Republicans in Congress would do better to ensure that the VA receives the funding it needs to properly address the emotional problems that returning veterans may have.

There also might be some self-criticism from Republicans and conservative commentators for their failure to speak out when the Bush administration was using the broad brush of “terrorism” to paint anti-war, environmental and various leftist groups as potential threats to the nation’s security.

Nat Parry is co-author of Neck Deep: The Disastrous Presidency of George W. Bush.

Legislative Townhall Forum Sponsored by Anti-Tax AFP

Friday, April 24
Pima Community College Northwest Campus
7600 N. Shannon Rd.
Participants will include Republican and Democratic legislators from LD 26-30
Topic: AZ Legislature Tax and Budget Policy

Rep. Phil Lopes (D) LD 27 Urges you to come prepared:

Project Vote Smart tracks available information on Legislative Representatives, statewide and national elected officials. There are links to biographical information, voting record, issues positions (political courage test) interest group ratings and campaign finances. Voting records for AZ legislators are available on over 40 issues including bills sponsored.
For more information about Key Votes, contact Voter's Research Hotline at 1-888-VOTE-SMART (1-888-868-3762).

Check the Voting Records of Senator Al Melvin and Representative Vic Williams

Read the Stronger Arizona Democratic Alternative Budget that would preserve spending for Arizona's schools and the Department of Economic Security, while cutting wasteful spending in other areas and imposing reasonable tax increases on incomes above $250,000 and energy taxes on power generated in Arizona sold to other states.

Americans for Prosperity, AFP reported here is the sponsor of the folks that hatched up the idea of faux grass roots nationwide tea parties to protest burdensome taxes on ordinary Americans. This well-heeled conservative political advocacy group headquartered in Washington D.C. is behind the agenda of massive budget cuts to Arizona schools and the Department of Economic Security that targets the most vulnerable of our citizens. Read more about AFP at Sourcewatch. Pictures are from the Arizona Capitol Rally.

Labor Enters Immigration Debate

Resisting False Choices & Getting to a Truly Humane Immigration Policy

By David Sirota
Created 04/20/2009 - 10:06am

In the debate over immigration, interest groups like the Chamber of Commerce would have us believe that there are only two positions: Either you are a tolerant and good person who supports "reform" or you are an evil racist who wants to build a wall at our southern border. Likewise, genuine xenophobes and racists would have us believe you are either a patriot who supports "border security" and wants to preserve "our culture" (read: white culture) or you hate America and are a traitor.

These are (obviously) oversimplified frames, and for a reason: Racists want to polarize the debate on nationalistic terms, and Big Money interests want to use immigration "reform" - most prominently through a so-called "guest worker program" - to create a permanent underclass of immigrants to economically exploit.

IMHO, this latter strategy is most dangerous, because whereas racists/xenophobes are pretty open about their xenophobia (and whereas polls show most Americans want tolerance in our immigration policy), Big Money is wrapping exploitative policies in the patina of human rights and tolerance.

To understand how such exploitation works - and how it is hidden under the veneer of supposed "pro-immigration" tolerance - read this excerpt from Rochester Institute of Technology professor Ron Hira's excellent op-ed in Businessweek [1]. His piece is specifically on the H-1B program, one existing version of a so-called "guest worker" program:

The H-1B is a temporary work permit, one that allows participating foreigners to be mistreated. The visa, remember, is held by the employer, not the worker. That considerably diminishes the H-1B holder's bargaining power for better wages and working conditions.

Some H-1B workers are eventually sponsored for permanent residency, but, again, this is at the discretion of their employers. Because the number of guest workers far exceeds the number of available employment-based green cards, H-1B workers can get stuck where they are for as long as 10 years, with no ability to switch employers or even get a promotion.

Because guest-worker program proposals vest the immigrant's immigration status in the hands of the employer, the immigrant is effectively an indentured servant. The immigrant cannot ask for a raise, better working conditions, or - godforbid - to join a union without fear of not only being fired by the employer, but of also being thrown out of the country by the employer.

While it's certainly true that an ugly racist element opposes all efforts to increase the number of immigrants in the United States, it's also very true that you can oppose this specific kind of "reform" on grounds that are the opposite of racist - on grounds that this kind of "reform" is horrible for immigrants because it relegates them to a permanently disempowered underclass. On top of that, of course, it forces domestic workers to compete in a wage-cutting competition with workers who have far fewer basic rights to demand better pay.

The idea that you either have to be for inhumane policies or you are a racist is a false choice - and the good news is that a new progressive consensus seems to be coalescing around immigration principles that are both pro-immigrant/anti-racist and humane.

The Hill newspaper [2] reports that organized labor has (IMHO, rightly) "opposed the current guest worker program on the grounds that some employers use it to exploit foreign employees at the expense of U.S. workers they would otherwise have to provide better pay and conditions to." But now, labor has unified in support of "a national commission to determine the number of permanent and temporary workers allowed across the border every year, which the labor groups said would be 'based on labor market shortages that are based on actual and real needs.'"

I'm not sure I completely agree with this framework - we are a nation of immigrants, and I don't think only economic factors should determine how much legal immigration we allow. Why? Because people often want to immigrate to the United States for non-economic reasons - Jews in World War II Europe, for instance, wanted to immigrate here to escape death at the hands of the Nazis.

That said, the fact that organized labor - parts of which have been reluctant to support increased immigration - is coming to the table on this issue is real progress in rejecting the attempt by both Big Money and racists to ramrod this debate into a false choices.

As the debate over immigration heats up, progressives have to watch out for sleight-of-hand - specifically, for moneyed interests that are portraying their immigration proposals as "humane." The truth is, most of these moneyed interests don't care whether the policy is humane at all - all they care about is using immigration policy to hurt both domestic and foreign workers, and therefore drive down labor costs.

And so to close, I just want to reiterate the most important point: You can oppose specific kinds of "reform" - specifically, so-called "guest worker" proposals - on grounds that are the opposite of racist - on grounds that this kind of "reform" is horrible for immigrants because it relegates them to a permanently disempowered underclass. A truly positive immigration reform package would be one that increased legal immigration levels and made sure that those coming into our country have exactly the same economic rights and economic leverage as domestic workers. That's good for everyone.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

The Real News: The struggle for the Employee Free Choice Act

Elaine Bernard Pt3: The biggest barrier to unionization is the law.

Elaine Bernard is the executive director of the Labor and Worklife Program at Harvard Law School. Bernard's writings often focus on workers in the telecommunications industry, and the role technological change plays in altering work. In the last several years, she has publicly discussed how advancing technology will change how labor unions function (especially in regard to member-to-member and union-member communication and organizing).

More at The Real News

Saturday, April 18, 2009

Daily Show: Elizabeth Warren TARP Report Card

Enjoy Jon Stewart's PPIP moment! Harvard Law Professor and Chair of the Congressional Oversight Panel on TARP, Elizabeth Warren explains that her job is to stand on the outside and demand transparency, accountability and clarity i.e. better articulation and explanation of the government's policy.

The Daily Show With Jon StewartM - Th 11p / 10c
Elizabeth Warren Pt. 1
Daily Show
Full Episodes
Economic CrisisPolitical Humor

The Daily Show With Jon StewartM - Th 11p / 10c
Elizabeth Warren Pt. 2
Daily Show
Full Episodes
Economic CrisisPolitical Humor

Democracy Now: Thomas Tamm, Wiretap Whistleblower Still Faces Possible Arrest

Justice Dept. Whistleblower Defends Decision to Leak Bush Domestic Surveillance Program & Calls for Prosecution of Gov’t Officials and Telecoms

We speak with Thomas Tamm, the man who blew the whistle on the Bush administration’s secret domestic surveillance program. Tamm worked as an attorney at the Justice Department when he leaked the story to the New York Times in 2004. In 2007, the FBI raided his home and seized three computers and personal files. He still faces possible arrest for disclosing classified secrets. [includes rush transcript]

Friday, April 17, 2009

New Film Tells Unreported Story of Obama’s Election

Barack Obama, People’s President” Describes Techniques That The Obama Administration Is Now Using To Win Support For Its Agenda, And Can Be Used To Hold Him Accountable

By Danny Schechter
Director, “Barack Obama, People’s President”

The election of Barack Obama may be long over, but the campaign for change is still underway. For the first time in American history, a president is using the techniques he deployed in running for office as a candidate in calling for deeper change.

And, no surprise, this significant political development is barely being covered in a media that loves to punditize, poll public opinion, and debate policy options in a top-down way. By “covering” politics in this way, our mass media is missing the most innovative bottom -up grassroots effort in recent memory,

I know about this because as a journalist and filmmaker, I set out to document just how Obama won the election. That story, told in the film “Barack Obama, People’s President” (slated for DVD release later this month by ChoiceMedia.net) documents the online and on the ground techniques that were used to win the highest office in the land.

The President is now using those same techniques, built around an impressive thirteen million name email list, to keep his organizers and supporters involved in backing his legislative agenda. This is the biggest mass lobbying effort of all time.

While his principal campaign advisor David Axelrod joined the White House staff at a high level, his campaign manager David Plouffe set about converting a campaign apparatus into a legislative army. As MoveOn.Org advisor David Fenton explains in our film, “It’s an institutionalized mass level automated technological community organizing that has never existed before and it is a very, very powerful force.”

They have converted the campaign website, BarackObama.com, and renamed it Organizing for America. It encouraged visitors to call Congress to support the President’s budget. And like the campaign, it sends out emails, text messages and uses social networking technologies. It organizes volunteers to canvass door to door like they did in the campaign. The first time out, they garnered nearly a quarter million signatures.

Andrew Rasiej of the personal Democracy Forum elaborates:

“He knows who is giving him money, who’s voted for him. He can now reach out to these people and ask them to help him to pass his legislative agenda. Those same people can call their congressmen and say we’ll support you for reelection if you vote for Obama’s legislation. We will give you money if you support Obama’s legislation. It’s a very powerful group that is actually the most powerful grassroots organization ever built in American history.”

The film “People’s President” shows how all of this - including use of Meet-up technologies like FaceBook, MySpace and Twitter were used as organizing tools by the campaign.

Rasiej cites the ongoing potential:

“It’s a citizens lobby! And not only can Obama as president go over the heads of congress to speak to the American public, he can go now between their legs and go underneath Congress to the American public and the American public can do the same back and that’s created a new power structure in the American politics, where the citizens can actually participate and not rely on the old (abstract) system of lobbyists, special interests and only those who have money.”

There is also the possibility, as political theorist Benjamin Barber told us, the young people who backed Obama can use these same techniques and web platforms to challenge him to stay on track:

“There are websites of young people who are deeply involved in the campaign who talk to one another, and now it would be very interesting because now that Obama’s President, they will find that websites and some horizontal campaigns of young people involved with him, now looking at him critically. And using the web to challenge him, to live up to what these young people believed he promised them and so on.”

This is significant. The progressive critics of Obama, disappointed by his appointments and some of his cautious policies, have to go beyond railing in print or crying in their beer. They have to reach out to the grassroots army that assured his election. This means being willing to dialogue with liberals and younger people who don’t label their politics. Reminding them of the role they played in a historic election may be one way to do that — to appeal to the instincts that led them to engage in the campaign for “change.” There’s no need to deify Obama — but there is a imperative to reenergize his base.

It is hard to remember that two years earlier Obama was barely known, registering on the radar screen for just 10% of voters. He was also hardly a brand name as a first term Senator who spent more time in state politics in Illinois than on the national stage. Moreover, he was young and a man of color — not qualities that usually prevail in a presidential arena which tends to draw far older, far whiter, and far more centrist candidates. The thought that he would beat frontrunner Hillary Clinton in the primaries was, quite frankly, unthinkable to most of the elite.

And yet he prevailed, as he used a phrase appropriated from labor organizer and Latino legend Caesar Chavez. Obama turned the farm workers Spanish language slogan “Si Se Puede” into “Yes We Can.” Rather than focus on specific political issues, he built a campaign on the promise of “Hope.” Rather than just rely on traditional fundraising — although by the end, he was plush with it — he reached out over the internet for smaller donations from millions of donors.

Few in the major media gave him a chance, but he was not discouraged because he had created his own grassroots media operation using sophisticated organizing and social networking techniques to build a bottom-up movement, not the usual top-down apparatus. While his campaign ran the show, he encouraged independent initiatives including citizen-generated media, music videos, personalized websites, twittering and texting, etc..

This is the new direction our politics has taken. It is a story that may be somewhat threatening to old media - and older activists - who prefer a one to many approach to communication, as opposed to forging a more interactive empowering platform. There is no question that young people — especially those mobilized by Obama — prefer online media and that choice is making it harder and harder for traditional outlets to sustain their influence and, in some cases, even their organizations. Old media may be on the way out.

This is why our film is, in my mind, so important, not just as a record of how Obama won and what happened in 2008, but in what will happen, can happen, and is happening in the future. This is why I believe its critical for Americans to see it — and others in the world as well — to recognize how Obama represents more than just another politician, but a whole new approach to politics. That old adage is worth remembering: “It’s not the ship that makes the wave, it’s the motion of the ocean.”

Obama, for all his shortcomings, which are becoming more obvious by the day, has pioneered the way change must be won — not by people on the top, but by all of us. It remains for “us” to hold him accountable. We live in a culture of amnesia - it is important to learn the lessons of the recent past.

– Emmy-Award Winning producer Danny Schechter blogs for MediaChannel.org. He’s made 30 documentaries, mostly on issues of change. His film “Barack Obama, People’s President,” produced by South Africa’s Anant Singh, is available soon on DVD from ChoicesVideo.net.

Comments to Dissector@Mediachannel.org